Page 42

36

Death sentences and executions in 2013

Amnesty international recorded at least 35 death sentences in Iraq, including one woman. Most were imposed for murder and other killings, but others for non-lethal crimes such as kidnapping or “belonging to a terrorist group”. The real figure is likely to be much higher, as many death sentences are not reported. According to an Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights report published early in the year, criminal courts had pronounced more than 2,600 death sentences between 2004 and 2012, or more than 280 per year on average. Death sentences are often handed down after grossly unfair trials, during which prisoners do not have access to proper legal representation. “Confessions” are frequently extracted through torture or other ill-treatment, which according to credible reports can include electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, being suspended from handcuffs, beatings on the sole of the feet (falaqa) and with a cable or a pistol butt, and use of a drill.

In March, Amnesty International documented 90 cases of death row inmates in Iraq who had been convicted of terrorism or other crimes on the basis of forced “confessions”.61 At least 14 of these 90 prisoners were executed during 2013. Saudi Arabian national ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam Saleh Musfer al-Qahtani, Iraqi national Safa Ahmad ‘Abul’aziz ‘Abdullah and four other Iraqi nationals had been sentenced to death in March 2011 by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq in Baghdad for an armed raid two years earlier on a goldsmith’s shop in Baghdad during which the owners were killed. The sentences of ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam Saleh Musfer al-Qahtani and Safa Ahmad ‘Abul’aziz ‘Abdullah were upheld by the Court of Cassation and ratified by the Iraqi Presidency around September. Both men are held in the Maximum High Security Prison (al-Himaya al-Quswa) at Camp Justice (Mu’askar al‘Adala) in Baghdad. The four other Iraqi nationals sentenced with them were executed on 2 April 2013. The six men initially “confessed” to being members of al-Qa’ida and carrying out the raid to raise funds for the organization, but later retracted these statements saying they had made them after torture and other illtreatment. Before his conviction, al-Fayha TV broadcast an interview with ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam Saleh Musfer alQahtani in which he “confessed” to committing this and other crimes. In February 2013 he told a lawyer that his treatment had included severe beatings, pulling his genitals, burning with cigarettes and partial asphyxiation with a plastic bag. According to their lawyer, one of the men was in detention and the other was not in Iraq at the time of the attack on the shop. However, the court convicted the defendants on the basis of their “confessions”, which had been admitted as evidence despite their allegations of torture and coercion in pre-trial detention. In statements in September and October, the Iraqi Ministry of Justice stated that all death sentences were reviewed and confirmed by the Court of Cassation before executions took place. However, the generally paper-based procedure does not provide a genuine review, as defendants are limited to written submissions, and the court regularly fails to address the issue of contested evidence such as “confessions” allegedly made following torture and other ill-treatment, and subsequently withdrawn. Hundreds of prisoners are on death row with their sentences ratified by the Presidency, the last formal step before implementation.62 Executions are often carried out in large groups, and at very short notice. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated in reaction to the execution of 21 prisoners on the same day in April that the justice system in the country was “too seriously flawed to warrant even a limited application of the death penalty, let alone dozens of executions at a time. Executing people in batches like this is obscene. It is like processing animals in a slaughterhouse.”63

Index: ACT 50/001/2014

Amnesty International March 2014

Death sentences and executions 2013  

This report is also available in Arabic, Farsi, French, Russian and Spanish at the following link: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AC...

Death sentences and executions 2013  

This report is also available in Arabic, Farsi, French, Russian and Spanish at the following link: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AC...

Advertisement